By: Greg Weisman
The Story: I think this is the beginning of a magical friendship.
The Review: Zatanna has a rather complicated place in the DCU and especially with the Justice League. Originally, she came into the League as a rookie, one of its youngest, if not its very youngest, members. While her teammates carried an experienced maturity, she had a bright-eyed innocence and humor that rang a little closer to that of a much younger hero. Though now an honored member of the League, she still retains a certain youthful charm about her.
Very fitting then that she gets introduced to Young Justice as one of their peers. In a lot of ways, she fills a vacuum within the team. For one, she adds another female presence to a largely testosterone heavy cast. For another, the team has had to deal with a lot of mystical threats with only Aqualad’s dabbling in magic as a viable defense, so having Zee as a direct answer to those situations seems not only appropriate, but ideal.
Weisman smartly avoids using Zee as a magical cure-all to the team’s obstacles by quickly establishing some limitations to her powers: familiarity with her spells, a proper source of energy, and preparation. None of this stops her from making an impressive showing on her unofficial mission with the YJers, proving that her value to any team is less about solving their problems with some backwards words and more about manipulating the odds in their favor.
Her unpredictability not only in her powers but also in her status as an unknown factor proves crucial when the team finally has their showdown with their treacherous former mentor. Of course, we know Red Tornado’s no traitor, but it’s necessary the team learns that for themselves, since they still hold a brisk chip on their shoulder when it comes to their League chaperones. Hopefully, this episode marks a critical point in turning their wariness to genuine affection.
That said, it’s great to see the team breaking out and really pursuing their own agenda outside the League’s protocols. While they’ve done an admirable job living up to their strict guidelines, they had to assert some independence at some point, and it makes absolute sense for them to do so in this case. And not only do they one-up the League in tracking down and absolving Red Tornado for his betrayal, they manage to save the world doing it. Not bad for their first time out.
Weisman crafts a strongly plotted episode, offering a substantial history of Tornado’s origins (certainly more than we’ve ever gotten for any of our actual main characters) and some credible drama to boot, albeit fraught with sci-fi melodrama. Robots who aspire to humanity go as far back as fairy tales (e.g. Pinocchio), and admittedly, Red and his siblings’ existential crises don’t exactly scream originality. But at least Red offers a refreshingly matter-of-fact take on the situation, telling his older brother and sister, “You were never human, but you were heroes.”
It’s worth noting that Aqualad grows in stature as a leader with every passing episode. While he won’t ever win a popularity contest based on charm alone, he shows incredible evenhandedness in his dealings with the team. He gets a great moment when, in response to Superboy’s impatient desire to trash Tornado, he chides, “[Red] deserves a chance to prove he’s more than the weapon others designed him to be.”
Conclusion: Aside from a well-utilized guest appearance, the episode balances action, pathos, comedy, and even romance (no, not more Superboy-Miss Martian lip-locking) to form a well-deserved watch.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Poor Captain Marvel. The guy just wants to hang with the gang and they leave him behind as a grown-up nark. Little do they know: “Um, are they coming out to play or what?”
– Having loved the unique bond between Red Tornado and the YJers (“Reddy,” they called him) back when Peter David wrote Young Justice, I’m very pleased to see them warm up to the loyal robot here.